by VineSleuth Contributing Writer, Steve Gross

What’s Unique about Rhone Valley Whites?

In learning about Rhone Valley wines, some new terms and places come up. You may not have heard of some of the grapes used in Rhone white wines: Viognier, Clairette, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, etc. These wines certainly ask you to tread some unfamiliar ground, but I’m sure you’ll find a wine among them that turns you on.



I’ve always enjoyed Viogniers, and aspire to some day invest in a really off-the-charts Condrieu, the area in the Rhone Valley where world-class wine is made from the Viognier grape. They usually run more than $100 a bottle, but there are other Viogniers that can be had for less than $15 (in fact, most of the Viogniers I’ve had have been in the $10-15 range.)

Other whites from the Rhone Valley are blends of Clairette, Bourboulenc, Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Marsanne, or Roussanne. There are other grapes used in these blends, but I won’t overwhelm you with the names. Suffice it to say, you’ll be drinking a wine made from grapes you don’t often encounter.

Of the wines I tasted in this category, the biggest hit among my friends (who are casual wine drinkers) were the Viogniers. I can see the attraction, as I really enjoy those wines myself. I even found one outstanding Viognier from Idaho while traveling this summer, so they’re out there. Washington and Virginia offer some really nice Viogniers, as well.

My personal favorite among those tasted this week was the Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc from Domaine du Grand Tinel. It kept me coming back for more of its bright, but not tart, blend of fruit and acid. I enjoyed the lemon peel and lemon curd I picked up after a few swirls of my white wine glass.

As they say, the best indicator of the quality of a wine is which bottle is empty first. I think all of my drinking partners during this week of tasting came away satisfied.

My next post will cover the range of Rhone Valley reds, some of my favorite wines in France. See you then!

Wines Tasted:

Perrin & Fils Cote du Luberon 2010 $8
Rhone varietals, including Grenache Blanc, Ugni Blanc, and Rousanne.
Not focused, a bit flabby, a bit of citrus but mostly flat, one-dimensional.

Domaine du Grand Tinel Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc 2010 14% ABV; $45
60% White Grenache, 20% Clairette, 20% Bourboulenc
Lemon peel, a bit of lemon curd on nose
Good blend of fruit and acidity, very pleasant in the mouth
Bright, but with some complexity; not just a bottle to down and forget
Would be great with food; moderately long finish

La Griveliere Cotes du Rhone 2009 13% ABV; $8

Simple white wine, nothing much to recommend about it in my opinion; a bit of smokiness and petrol.

Chapoutier Crozes-Hermitage Petite Ruche $23

Enjoyed this one. Stone fruit, crisp nose, with layers of flavor (apple, pear, citrus, wet rock) as bottle progressed. Another bottle I kept reaching for.

Next up we’ll continue our Tasting Tour of French Wine with the reds of the Rhone in two Tuesdays. Be sure to check back or, better yet, subscribe to VineSleuth Uncorked by email so you never miss a post.


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2 thoughts on “Rhone Valley Whites: A Tasting Tour of French Wine

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